by Starks Shrink

On July 2nd 2005, Oklahoma resident Sheilla Shea took a knife and stabbed her six year old son, Patric, to death in front of her other three children, one of whom wrestled her to the floor and took the knife. Her 10-year-old son ran across the street to Shea’s mother-in-law’s home to tell her what had happened. The mother-in-law, Pauline Shea, told police the police that Sheilla suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. When police spoke to Sheilla, she admitted that she had fatally stabbed Patric and had intended to kill all her children and herself. She apparently believed that someone was trying to kill her children and decided that if she killed them first, it would be more humane. Certainly, not a rational thought but there are very few of those when someone is in the grip of psychosis.

eilla5Sheilla Shea wisely followed her attorney’s advice and waived a jury trial. Her case was heard by a judge and he rendered a verdict of guilty by reason of insanity. I know states vary with respect to the actual availability of guilty by reason of insanity verdicts, and I imagine our resident attorney and legal expert, Rick, will check in on this account. Had Sheilla opted for a jury trial, the results could have been disastrous, based upon recent comments in social media. Instead, she was committed involuntarily to a psychiatric facility, where she remained in custody for nine years until she was released just last month.

eillaI first heard of Sheilla Shea just last week and only because she appeared on a television show about Justin Ross Harris and the car seat death of his child Cooper. When interviewed, Sheilla claimed that she knew what Harris was going through because she had also killed her child. Apparently, she also gave an interview on “Dr. Drew” about the horrific event. I have not seen the interview, nor have I been able to find it online. Why did she make a statement about Harris? I believe that she is not judging his culpability, only expressing her empathy with a parent who knows they have fatally harmed their child, be it through neglect or as a result of mental illness.

eilla7My curiosity piqued, I dug a little bit into this case and was left with a number of questions that were never answered satisfactorily but invite discussion.

Pauline Shea, Sheilla’s mother-in-law, told police that Sheilla was acting “off” and had told her and other people that she thought people were trying to crawl in through her window. In the days prior to the killing, she had kept the children indoors out of fear for their safety. This makes me ask the question: why didn’t Pauline do something? If she knew that Sheilla had schizophrenia, wouldn’t fantasies like this raise a red flag that something was seriously amiss?

eilla6Additionally, I discovered that a year prior to Patric’s death, Shea’s husband, Milton Eugene “Gene” Shea, was arrested for the production and possession of methamphetamine. This is when Pauline states that Sheilla “went off the deep end”. After Gene went to prison for his drug crime, Pauline claims that she took Sheilla to a mental crisis center, where she remained for up to three weeks while Pauline cared for her children. Twice during that period, reports were filed with health services. One report stated that Sheilla was being abused and forced to take drugs, and another claimed that she was abused and someone attempted to set her on fire. An ensuing investigation determined that the children were in no immediate danger and they referred Sheilla to counseling services. It’s my best guess that Sheilla herself was having delusions and made the reports herself. The investigation did note that the living conditions in the home were substandard – also a sign of mental illness. There are no indications that Sheilla herself ever abused methamphetamine, and in fact her mother-in-law claims that the couple often fought over his drug abuse.

eilla4In 2011, Sheilla was granted a conditional release which was intended to reintegrate her into society and build her self-reliance. She lived in her own apartment, filled her own prescriptions and attended her counseling appointments. This is a vital part of the treatment to ensure that the client will become and remain compliant with their treatment plan. Last month she was granted a full release from the psychiatric hospital. In essence, she is now a free woman. Her meth-cooking husband died in 2011, her children have forgiven her and understand, after extensive counseling themselves, that their mother was an extremely ill woman and incapable of acting differently. The public, however, is relentless. After her interview on HLN aired, many people were calling for her to be put into prison and worse. Their rationalization was that in the interview, Sheilla appreciated the enormity of her actions and didn’t seem mentally ill. Part of me wants to scream “DUH”; she’s been in a mental hospital for nine long years. They stabilized her medication so that she was no longer psychotic, and she underwent extensive therapy to deal with the after-effects of her actions, once she was able to fully understand what she had done. The rational part of me sees that the public-at-large does not understand serious mental illness/psychosis and how devastating it can be to the person who has to live with it.

eilla2I’m not sure why Sheilla Shea decided to go public with her story. She says she would sell her soul to have Patric back. I would hope that people could learn from the story of her family’s tragedy and intervene when someone is showing clear signs of mental illness. Regrettably, the masses seem to only scream for blood and ignore the stark reality that mental illness is a serious problem that we as a society need to provide care for in order to prevent occurrences such as that which befell Patric.


frePlease click here to view The Starks Shrink’s Other Posts:

The Overheating Death of Cooper Harris: Murder or Tragic Accident?

Why Beautiful Murderesses Inflame the Passions of the True Crime Fan

Going Postal Goes Fed-Ex!

How to Raise a Serial Killer in 10 Easy Steps

The Julie Schenecker Tragedy: Negligence, Finger-Pointing and the Death of Children

Luka Magnotta: Man, Boy or Beast?

The Disturbing Truth about Mothers Who Murder Their Children

Teleka Patrick Needed a Psychiatrist, Not a Pastor!

Rehabbing the Wounded Juvenile Will Save Their Souls (and Ours)

Skylar Neese and the Mean Girls Who Killed Her


3 Responses to Schizophrenic Child Killer Sheilla Shea Would “Sell Her Soul” to Bring Her Son Patric Back

  1. Rachel Lloyd says:

    I agree with your post. Society ignores not understands mental illness. The old put them away mentality!

  2. Diana says:

    It’s a shame that mental illness is such a broad area. Most people don’t understand other’s who suffer with mental illness, and other’s who have mental illness don’t even understand their illness.
    My brother is mentally ill and in prison. Last year he tried to commit suicide by wrapping a bed sheet around his neck. He was without oxygen for 10 minutes until he was revived.
    It took a lot of people a long time to stabilize him and bring him back, but his mental health medications were omitted because the doctors were too busy trying to keep him alive.
    In the end, the very moment he was slightly stabilized he was sent back to the prison because his healthcare was too expensive. He suffered serious brain damage due to the lack of oxygen, and because his medications were not stable he acted out irrationally.
    Instead of the prison understanding that he had to be stabilized on medications, and therefore was not in complete control of his faculties, the powers that be kept adding on “time” whenever he acted out of line by doing something a mentally imbalanced person would do.
    No my brother is stuck in prison, doesn’t know he’s there, insists that he’s going home tomorrow, and is being taunted and bullied by other inmates, and is sitting in soiled clothing because no one in the DOC has the compassion to ask him if he wants to shower. This is the real world…no one cares about those with mental conditions. Until if effects them personally, or they can sit self righteously on their pedestal’s and point fingers at those who are society’s “undesirables”.
    Society and families should take a more active role in the life of someone who is mentally ill. I know that it can be a burden to live with someone with special needs, but to let them go out into society and let the public at large have to deal with the aftermath of the actions of the mentally unstable is cruel and despicable.
    Mental illness varies in degrees from serious to depression, but all people with mental illness are put into the same categories and expected to act the same. It doesn’t work that way, and never will.

    • PatrickHMoore says:

      This is one of the most insightful and most real comments anyone has written in the short history of All Things Crime Blog.

      And I would bet that nearly everyone has a mentally ill family member — perhaps not within the immediate family but certainly among the relatives.

      Where is the love?

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